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We recently stayed 4 nights in NYC and did loads of research into hotels, we wanted something fairly central and close to the subway. I had read all the advice on various sites stating that there is more to NYC than staying and eating in Times Square etc but for the first time in New York this is where we wanted to base our stay. One thing that we wanted was a skyscraper view room, originally this wasn't an essential requirement of our stay but having looked at lots of hotels we decided that a skyscraper view would be the icing on the cake - as long as it didn't cost too much money! We were on a budget but didn't mind splurging a little for location and view! We decided on the Millenium Broadway due to it's proximity to Times square - a stones throw away! We also could get a superior room on offer that guaranteed to be above the 28th floor and therefore a skyscraper view room! We booked the deal as a flight and hotel package and therefore did receive a saving on the booking separately price. We booked during a Virgin flight sale and paid £1084 for 2 people, 2 flights and 4 nights accommodation. The flight only price would have been just over £600 so I'm guessing we paid about £400-£450 for the accommodation so just over £100 a night. For one of the greatest if not the greatest cities in the world I don't think this was too bad, especially comparing to the prices you would pay In London for a hotel! We arrived at JFK airport and decided to take the cheap option of the airtrain and the subway opposed to getting a taxi! I think it's part of the fun navigating a city's transport system anyway. We got off the subway at 42nd street/Times Square station - a place we would get quite familiar with over the next few days! We made our way to an exit, there are hundreds and it was more good luck than good management that we ended up a the right side of Times Square! We walked the few blocks up from the station to W44th Street where the hotel was located, after turning the corner, the hotel entrance was clearly visible and we couldn't believe how close to Times Square we were! This spot was ideal!! We made our way into the hotel and to the check in desk, it was 2.30pm and check in technically wasn't until 4pm - I had read some reviews about the reception staff being rude and not letting people check in until 4pm but thought we may as well give it a try! We just walked up and politely asked if it would be possible to check in, we gave him our accommodation voucher and he searched for the booking and said that'd be no problem at all! He couldn't have been nicer - asked if we'd had a pleasant flight, found the hotel okay etc, just small talk but definitely no sign of the rudeness I'd read about. Within a couple of minutes he was handing us our room keys - for our superior double room on the 43rd floor!! Woop Woop! He directed us to the lifts and told us where the bar was (although we had just passed it on our way in), and where there was a gift shop and computers etc. We made our way up to our room, there were 2 groups of lifts, one lot went up to the first 16 floors, the other group stopped at floors 16 and above. This was quite a good idea as it saved you stopping at loads of floors every time you got in the lift! We got to the floor quite quickly - watch for your ears popping!! A thing to get used to in New York lifts!! We found our room fairly quickly and was pleasantly surprised when we opened the door! We had read some reports of the rooms being basic and not great...well I don't know what hotels these people are used too but this was quite easily one of the nicest hotel rooms I've ever stayed in! The room itself had a huge bed and some big bed side cabinets with lovely lamps on them, there was a 42in tv, a desk and chair, and easy chair with a small table and the best feature - floor to ceiling picture windows looking out at some of the buildings near times Square. We didn't have a Times Square view room- you had to pay extra for that! Although there was a small window on the floor with a view over times square! At night we could see the reflection across other all the other buildings of the lights from Times Square! The bathroom was also one of the biggest I've seen in a hotel room, we felt that the room was perfect and certainly wouldn't call it basic! There was a small wardrobe which also had a safe in it that was big enough to fit all travel docs and electricals, it wouldn't be big enough for a laptop though - that didn't bother us - we were on holiday!! There was a good information book in the hotel that had all info about the services the hotel offered as well as room service prices, we never used this, I can't remember the exact prices but it was a fortune! The same for the minibar! I had read about the mechanism that means even if you don't eat/drink the item if you move it from it's place you would be charged - we checked through the drawers, found the minibar and never touched it again! The only downside was probably the lifts in the morning, every morning you would press the call button and a full lift would stop at the floor - irritating for both those in the lift and those waiting! It just meant letting the doors close and pressing the call button again! Being on the 43rd floor there weren't that many floors above us (up to 52 I think!) but it just showed how busy it was at peak times. Once in the lift we often stopped at several floors when it was already full. This didn't bother us greatly though and I'm sure all hotels with that many floors have similar problems! Considering the location of this hotel, there is no problem with noise what so ever! It was really quiet and we had 4 fantastic nights sleep! Probably helped by all the sightseeing we did during the day! Also the curtains are black out curtains sot he light doesn't bother you either! We did leave a gap in them though so we could tell it was daylight , they were that good!! We were on a room only basis and decided to find somewhere for breakfast outside the hotel, hotels are renowned for their extortionate prices and this hotel was no exception (can't remember the exact cost - one look was enough). We went across the road to a lovely little deli called Times Deli instead and you could get fantastic Bagels from there for $2-3! There was even a seating area upstairs for you to eat them, we stopped here everyday, they actually began to know us as we frequented it so much in 5 days!! They had so much choice, I couldn't believe some of the platefuls some people were having for breakfast! We spent all our days and evenings sightseeing and only really used the hotel to sleep and wind down in an evening, one thing we found really good in an evening was coming back to the hotel after a full day out, calling at Times Deli for a sandwich and a brownie (gorgeous doesn't even come close!! Yum yum!) and then taking them up to our room. We'd get some ice from the ice machine, have a couple of cold drinks and sit in front of our picture window looking at the buildings and the lights from Times square whilst pinching ourselves that we were actually in NYC! In one window we were convinced that someone was asleep at their desk in front of a computer in one of the buildings! We eventually decided it must have been a coat or something on the desk as it didn't move in 4 days! It was just a lovely place to relax. For us the location of Times Square was ideal, from the subway station (42nd Street/Times Square) we could get anywhere we wanted and we were also within walking distance of a lot of attractions - definitely recommend buying the weekly pass and utilising the subway. We walked all round fifth avenue, Rockefeller, up to central park, pier 83 for circle line cruise, empire state building, Macys, Madison square gardens etc and used the subway for getting Downtown and to Brooklyn. Overall, if I went back to New York I don't think I'd even look for another hotel, this hotel was in an ideal location and was lovely and quiet for a good nights sleep, and the rooms were lovely and plush in our opinion! Highly Recommended!
We booked to go to the Statue of Liberty first thing on a Sunday morning and took the subway from Times Square to South Ferry. We walked out of South Ferry and round Battery Park to the waters edge to catch our first real glimpse of Lady Liberty! Wow! Now you know you're in New York! Suchan iconic statue. We prebooked tickets online on the statue cruises website so avoided the queue for buying tickets and were able to go into the reserve tickets queue rather than the general queue. Our tickets cost us $20 - $12 standard fare and $8 for the audio tour. There was no extra charge for booking online and you print your tickets out yourself. We definitely saved some time here, our ticket was time at 9am, we joined the queue about 8.45am and it was already getting quite long - if you don't pre-book definitely go for the first ferry! We made our way through security (airport style) and got a good seat on the boat, although then soon realised we didn't want to sit as we wouldn't be able to see and instead went and stood up next to the railings on the boat. The first boat departed at 9.30am and we were on our way, even at this time the boat was full. It was a beautifully sunny and clear day, but going across the water in March there was a very cold wind! In about 10mins we arrived at Liberty Island, having sailed round the front of the Statue herself, it was a beautiful sight. We got off the boat and headed straight for the shop - we had prebooked an audio tour so we went to collect our headsets. We also prebooked Monument access - Crown access was sold out when we booked. Monument access meant that we could go to the Pedestal level of the statue and also visit the museum. It didn't cost any more for monument access you just had to pre-book it as I don't think many if any are available on the day. We started the audio tour and listened to the introduction, and some of the history relating to the statue. We then made our way to the statue for our museum and pedestal visit - if you are on the first ferry go here first, we saw big lines later on in the morning as more and more boats arrived, we were able to look round at our own pace without it being crowded. To gain access to the statue you have to go through another security checkpoint, you also can't take any food or drink with you and they don't like you taking your bags either. There are some lockers that are fingerprint activated (quite cool!) and these were $1 I think, we just put everything in there and kept the camera and camcorder with us. Next for the security screening, you have the usual airport style checks but you have to take off shoes, belts and watches, you then stand in a body scanner type thing and get puffs of air blown at you! (Probably not a good idea to wear a floaty skirt!) I presume this checks whether you are hiding anything! Now you can make your way into the museum and statue. The first thing you will come across is the original torch from the statue, it makes you appreciate the size of the statue! We used the audio tour to guide ourselves round the museum, there is a lot of information and if you didn't have the audio tour there was plenty of stuff to read. My husband does not have a very good attention span and got quite bored of the audio tour, whereas I thought it was really informative and interesting! He took to listening to the children's audio tour and seemed quite happy with that! The museum takes you all the way from the original idea of the statue and guides your through the history of the statue and the structure inside it, I found this all really interesting. We then made our way up the stairs to the top of the pedestal level (the lifts have been suspended indefinitely - there are about 200 steps). We walked all the way round the pedestal at this level and you get some fantastic views of Manhattan island. We took loads of pics and even asked what we thought was a security guard to take our pic - you never get couple pics when there's just the 2 of you on hol! I then realised he wasn't a security guard! He had SWAT written on his back and a huge gun! Oops! He said he shouldn't really but seen as no-one was about he would! Phew! It was quite breezy up here and we got some fab views, I'm not sure how worthwhile it would have been going to the crown, other than to say you'd been in the crown. We then made our way down and spent some time wandering round the base before going down to the grass where there was starting to get quite a lot of people about. We retrieved our bags from the locker and made our way back out and to the front of the statue, again using our audio guides. There was a professional photographer taking photos so we took advantage of this and did actually buy 2 ($20 for 2, one of us and the statue, one of us and the skyline). These will be a nice memento! We bought a foam crown from the shop and spent a bit of time taking silly photos and posing as the statue of liberty! It had to be done! We also bought a few other little things from the shop, a magnet, pen and some sweets! They weren't too overpriced seen as you were at one of the most if not the most iconic thing in America! It was now about 12noon, we had left the hotel just after 7.30am and were starting to get hungry! We decided to have a look at the menu in the restaurant as it was a nice day and there were quite some seats outside. We got 2 burgers and fries and a bottle of coke for about $20. We thought this was quite good value for money considering we were eating it in the shadow of the Statue of Liberty! Once we had finished our lunch we made our way back to the boat to head to Ellis Island (separate review to follow!). We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to Liberty Island and I would definitely recommend pre-booking the monument pass, the museum is really interesting and a good way to spend some time. Without the monument access there isn't really anything to do other than walk round the island! I know you can see the statue for free from the Staten island ferry but for a first trip to New York it was good to actually be on Liberty Island and inside the statue, also I think it was excellent value for money. Definitly worth the trip! Just get there early and even better pre-book!
We have just returned for a week at the Athena Beach Hotel in Paphos, Cyprus. I had done my research prior to going and discovered most hotels were either along Poseidonos Avenue on the sea front or near the Tomb of the Kings road which was inland. We are generally not lovers of sitting in bars next to roads and prefer to have a view of something and therefore decided to go for Poseidon's Avenue. We decided on the Athena Beach as it seemed a good all round hotel and for the time we were looking at going you could pay for a b+b stay and get upgraded to half board for free! For the same price as b+b in other hotels nearby we decided to go for it. We normally stay in self catering complexes but this time travelled with my parents who prefer hotels, originally we were only going b+b as we prefer to eat out at night and have a walk, however with an upcoming trip to Florida we decided a week of free food was too good to miss! It was save us quite a bit of money. We arrived at the hotel at about 11.30pm, our flight out was slightly delayed and of course we were nearly last drop off on the coach! We were checked in fairly quickly and received our room key. As we had missed the first night of our half board stay we were given a free meal voucher to be used any time during our stay, which I thought was quite good - we decided to use this on our last day as we had a late pick up due to a late flight. We found our room no problem at all - due to the time we got to the hotel we took the bags ourselves rather than waiting for the porter as we just wanted to get stuff put away and sorted! Room: The rooms themselves are not luxurious rooms and I have seen reviews saying they are basic. I wouldn't say they are basic, the furniture is maybe more of a simple style but we found the room perfect for our needs. What gives this hotel the 4 start rating are the facilities and amenities you receive. Sometimes people who always stop at high end hotels maybe don't appreciate the little things but for us we were impressed. Firstly - the safe only cost 6euros a week - this has to be the cheapest I've ever paid to rent a safe, okay so some people might expect to get it for free, but come on 6euros, it's not going to break the bank! There were also free slippers and bathrobes in every room, an iron and ironing board, tea and coffee making facilities, free tv (many apartments now charge for tv's) and best of all a large fridge for your own personal use! There was a sign saying it could be stocked as a minibar if you so wished but it was their for you to stock yourselves with items from a shop. We found the fridge really useful, there was a small ice compartment in the top which had an ice cube tray in it, it was great to have chilled drinks in your room without paying silly prices!! Whilst doing my research I discovered that if you don't pay for a seaview room, you get a room next to the road that runs across the back of the hotel and these are quite often bothered by noise from the road and bars across the road. Because of this we upgraded to a sea view room, and although the view we got was not great (we were on level 1 so not above the palm tree line, however we could see the sea!), we couldn't have asked for quieter rooms! We barely heard anything! One thing that probably helped was that the corridors and rooms were carpeted - when you have tiles the sound travels a lot more. Food and bars: Nectar Bar - this is the main bar which is on a verandah round the hotel, it has lovely sea views and is a lovely spot for pre and after dinner drinks! Between 7 and 8 it iwas happy hour and all drinks were half price! Bargain! They had a full cocktail list included in the offer and a wide variety of drinks. Salted nuts were also brought to every table when you ordered and were nice for a few nibbles. A Pina Colada was 5euros90, a coke 1euro 90 and a local beer (Keo) 2euro90. I don't think these prices were bad at all and were certainly no dearer than bars in the area. Pool bar - open throughout the day and into the evening for drinks. Snacks were served during the day. A hamburger and crisps (not chips) was 3.90 and toasted sandwich with crisps and salad garnish was 3.50 so fairly cheap and they were filling. The only thing that was expensive was ice lollies! A calipo was 3 euros. Main restaurant - This restaurant was used for breakfast and evening meal and was huge! It was a buffet restaurant with loads of tables inside and then a small area outside. We requested a table outside every night and only one night was there not one available, they automatically seated you in the indoor area, I can eat inside at home! For breakfast there was everything you could think of, breads, cheeses, hams, fruit, sausages, bacon, scrambled egg, fried egg, beans, an omelette station, crepe station, fresh juices and water, cereal and cakes! There really was something for everyone! Nutella crepes for breakfast! Yum yum!! The food was fresh and replenished regularly and several cooking stations for the hot food and they cooked it how you liked to order - fried eggs - sunny side up, easy over etc! Every night there was a theme in the restaurant, however generally all the food was the same with maybe the odd twist to it! There was a pasta station with 2 sauces, a carvery station, Chinese area, salad bar, vegetables, chips and a section with other meats. Again all of this was fresh and hot again with some of it being cooked in front of you. There was a different soup every night for starters and some bread rolls. Then there was the puddings, various types of mousse and angel delight type puddings, jelly and usually a gateau and/or cheesecake option and of course ice cream and various fruits. Also a section of various cheeses for cheese and biscuits. I think even the fussiest of eaters would be fine! Its an opportunity to try things you wouldn't necessarily order from a restaurant in case you didn't like it and I only ate chips once, the rest of the time I had rice and pasta which made a nice change. Twice a week they have theme nights where the tables are all set out round the pool and they have live music. One is a Greek night and the other a bbq. To be honest the Greek night was the most disappointing, as it was set up outside we felt there was not as much choice and this was the only night where we did struggle slightly with the food. I tried various different things but my husband stuck to chicken and chips (the only night he actually resorted just to this!), and on the Greek night there was no pasta station - on all the other theme nights there was! The BBQ night was better and seemed to have more of a selection and did have some pasta. The live music was good but was sometimes a little loud and would have been better as background music - maybe partly our fault as we always went down to dinner later and by this point the music was maybe louder than at the start of dinner as more and more people finished and joined in with the dancing. Overall I cannot complain about the food at all and I ate far more than I would have done on a self catering holiday! Probably not a good thing! Lunch restaurant - We only ate here once, on our last day we used our free meal voucher for a late lunch prior to getting picked up for our flight. I would say this was a little less organised and is more of a self service restaurant than a buffet. The food was fine, we did have to wait a while for our food but we weren't in any rush. I think they would be better make the lunch time a buffet too! Pool: The pool, sunbathing area and gardens are really what make this hotel, they really are extensive and you have no trouble finding a sunbed. What's great is that they aren't on top of one another either, you have you own space and don't feel crammed like sardines in a tin! There are loads of umbrellas and each 2 sunbeds come with mattresses, a chair and a little table/stool - all free of charge - again I have paid for umbrellas and mattresses at hotels before. The pool was nice and big and not too cold either! It was never very busy and there are rules on a board which generally people adhered to, it felt like a civilised environment rather than a pool a butlins! There was a waterslide next to the main pool, I guess this was really for kids but us adults loved it too! There was usually a guard near the slide as well stopping people from messing about near it, we did encounter a few Russian children whose parents clearly weren't interested in what their kids were doing, messing about once the guard had gone, but generally it was well used and people didn't mess about. There was aqua aerobics in the pool everyday except Wednesday at 12noon and various other activities, however we wouldn't have known these activities were on if we hadn't been given the sheet showing them when we checked in! Beach/Sea: There is a small beach area with the hotels loungers on it, it is quite a rocky area as you get closer to the sea so water shoes are maybe a good idea. The are jetty's dotted along the coastline to allow you to get in the sea further in (and avoiding some of the rocks). When we were there the sea wasn't that calm, we only actually went in once and founf even by going onto the jetty to get in I caught my foot on a rock and my husband hit his knee whilst swimming - just something to be careful of! I'm more of a pool person anyway! Overall: I cannot fault the hotel at all, every aspect of it was spot on. Pool area, accommodation, food and staff, I was just a bit disappointed by how quiet Paphos was. This may be due to the credit crunch but there wasn't as many shops etc to walk round as we thought there would be. Near the hotel there was only a supermarket and a collection of bars which were fine but without walking to the harbour there wasn't anywhere to wander round. The triangle is only 5 mins walk away, again with a selection of bars (best of all the Crocodile bar! Loved it!) and a supermarket. We did head out one night for a meal to the harbour and had a wander round the shops which was pleasant but again nowhere near as busy or as many shops as we expected. As we were half board by the time we had eaten it was a bit late to walk to the harbour as the shops wouldn have been shutting, it was only a 30minute walk and was quite pleasant. Had we been b+b I think we'd have walked down to the harbour every night! We walked down bar street one night at about 10pm and found it very quiet - this was maybe a bit early for that scene but there weren't many people about and quite a few places shut. This is maybe a sign of the times and I have maybe been spoilt as where we normally holiday in Tenerife you have lots of places to walk to and wander round! This is no slight on the hotel though and for that reason I give it 5stars! A fantastic hotel all round, just maybe pick it up and move it to Tenerife?!
We recently stayed at this hotel prior to our flight to New York. As we live in the north and our flight was at 9.25am we decided it would be a bit more of a leisurely morning if we stayed over the night before, plus you never know if you are going to have any travel delays. I looked into several hotels in the Heathrow area and was actually surprised at how cheap they were considering it is in London! I think this is probably because of the amount of hotels that there are! I started by looking at the Hotel Hoppa (£4 each each way!) routes to discover which hotels had transfers to Terminal 3, this narrowed it down considerably and so I priced up these hotels. I then discovered that within the Heathrow Perimeter you can take a local bus for free! I soon discovered a website that listed all the hotels on the free bus routes! However this did eliminate the Travelodge's which I were thinking on using purely for their prices! I discovered that the hotels with the best bus service were all on Bath Road. Out of all of these the cheapest was the Ibis, even the holiday inn and Sheraton weren't badly priced though! So we booked a room - £30.50 for the room for a night! Just as cheap as a Travelodge (no £19 rooms were available!). On arrival at Heathrow Terminals 1,2 and 3 underground station we took the 111 bus and got off at the last free stop - Hartington Corner and walked about 50yards to the hotel. From the outside it looks quite an old style hotel but it has been completely modernised inside. The check in procedure was fairly straight forward and we were soon in our room. The rooms in the ibis are quite small, however it was perfectly adequate for what we wanted. The bathroom had a ¾ bath with an overhead shower and a modern toilet and sink. The shower was also reasonably powerful with plenty of hot water. The room we stayed in had a double bed with a flat screen TV on the wall in front of it, as far as I can remember this had all normal channels and a few freeview - we didn't actually have the TV on for long! There was also an open wardrobe with a hanging rail and some shelves which was kind of all in one with a desk a luggage rack, all quite handy really. For the price I thought the room was very modern and perfectly adequate as an airport hotel, I thought it was better than a Travelodge and not as rugged round the edges as some of the older Travelodge's. The room also wasn't as basic as you can find in a Travelodge. We arrived at the hotel at about 10pm and we gone about 5.45am so really didn't spend a lot of time in it, however I think I had a fantastic nights sleep - even being an airport hotel I didn't hear lots of people coming and going and found the bed to be really comfortable. I think there was also tea and coffee in the room - I don't drink either so it isn't something I look for! There was internet available in the room but this was extra - again as I wasn't going to be using it I can't remember the cost, but for me wifi or internet access isn't the first thing I look for in a hotel and certainly not when I'm using it for a short stopover before a flight! It's not a high end business hotel, it's a hotel that serves it's purpose and is clean and modern throughout. There was a buffet restaurant and a bar in the hotel - I imagine these were fairly pricey as with most hotels, due to the lack of time in the hotel we didn't look at these. Checking out also wasn't a problem, we had pre-paid for our room and therefore just had to hand our key card over, they checked we hadn't used any pay per view movies and that was it, we were on our way! Overall, this hotel was perfect for what we wanted! We hadn't stopped in an Ibis before but after this experience I would definitely look at them in the future, I quite like compact rooms in hotels when they are only for short stays, I don't need a big room with loads of space! For an overnight stopover before a flight there really is no need to spend any more! Perfect!
The Rockefeller Centre is actually a 'city within a city' it is a group of buildings which also includes Radio City Music Hall and NBC Studios tour amongst many other things. The Top of the Rock is actually the top of the GE Building which is part of the Rockefeller Centre . This was one of the first things we did in NYC, on the afternoon that we arrived! When we arrived at the Rockefeller Centre Plaza we just looked up! Wow! We were going to the top of that!! My husband has a fear of heights...he has always said he is fine on a building as it is a solid structure, he just doesn't like things like the Eiffel Tower that don't seem as 'solid'! This was going to test his building theory! He kind of looked up and just said, hmm that's pretty high!! We were going to go up the Empire State building on the first day - one of those NYC things that just has to be done! But having done my research I realised going on a Saturday afternoon even in March may not be the best idea as it was likely we would be stuck in a queue for a while! So we decided on the Rockefeller Centre, this way we could also see the Empire State Building! When we arrived it was about 5pm and we walked from the Rockefeller plaza/ice rink and to the entrance on 50th street. We walked straight in went down the spiral stairs and bought our tickets - we had a voucher for $2 off each which I had printed from the internet, this worked no problem, so it was $20. We also decided to buy the guide for $2 so we could work out which building was which! I think this was really good value (the guide for the Empire State Building later on our trip was $8...) We then got the lift up the mezzanine floor and went through the security check, again no queues at all. Just after the security check was some information on the history of the building, however we realised it was getting later and later and we wanted to be up the top in the light to get some pictures before the sun set so we didn't read any of it! I think it would have been quite informative though, especially as we are quite interested in skyscrapers! We had a picture took on a steel bar - a mimic of the famous picture with all the workmen having their dinner. We were given a little card and told the images could be viewed online for 30days and that there would be a photographer at the top who could take some pictures for us as well. We thought this was a good idea as when there is just 2 of you on holiday you rarely get pictures together!! We walked through to the lift lobby where there was a small queue - 10 people?! We were ushered round and were in the next lift up! Once in the lift if you don't like lifts or heights don't look up! Once it starts moving there is a bit of commentary and the top of the lift goes see through and you can see lights all the way up to the top! And your ears will pop! It moves fast! You arrive at the 67th floor, the first of 3 observation decks. Here there is an indoor area with some seats and a small shop as well as all the lifts. The other 2 observation decks are on the 69th and 70th floor - I'm not quite sure what happened to the 68th floor, I didn't notice we'd gone up 2 floors! On the 67th floor there are 2 small terraces, one at the Empire State building side and one at the Central Park side, these are both obscured by Perspex, however you can fit you camera in between a gap to get good photos. The 69th floor has a bigger terrace at either side, again with Perspex round for protection, also with some benches to sit on outside, there is a small shop on this level and an indoor bit which shows people movements using light through the area. From here you go up another level to the 70th and you really are on top of the building, this is one big terrace that does not have any obstructed views. There was a photographer up here that would take your picture and put it on the same card as the other one for us to view online later and choose whether to buy or not. We had a couple of photos taken with the Empire State Building in the background. We took some photos from up here and spent quite a bit of time up here watching the sunset and the lights come on on the buildings, We thought the views up here were fantastic and loved watching it go dark. We spent some time wandering between the floors and spending some time inside - it got a bit chilly once the sun went down! Overall we were up there about 2 hours and got some fantastic pictures. I would definitely recommend a visit to the Rockefeller centre and think it was the better of the two out of the Empire State and here, although I would still say go up the Empire State. We timed our visit perfectly, we saved ourselves $20 each by going up in the daylight and waiting til it got dark, it was also a spectacular sight to see the sun set and the city lights come on. You get such a different view in the daylight to the dark! The lights are fantastic! We thoroughly enjoyed our visit to the Top of the Rock and it was definitely a good way to start our visit to NYC.
On our recent transatlantic trip to NYC we flew with Virgin Atlantic who use Terminal 3 at LHR. This was my first experience of flying out of Heathrow and I did wonder how it would compare to the big airports 'up north' - would it feel like I was flying from such a big airport...well not really! Realistically each Terminal is it's only little airport, it is only when you're taxiing that you realise the size of the airport as a whole. So Terminal 3, was I impressed? Firstly we were dropped off at the Central Bus Station - a 5 minute walk down some tunnels and travelators and we were in the heart of Terminal 3. We couldn't miss the Virgin Check in area smack bang in front of with red everywhere! I like airports (I will admit I'm a bit sad when it comes to planes and airports!) and so wanted to get there in plenty of time so we had time for security, breakfast, flight essentials shopping (magazines) and a wander round the Terminal in search of the beast of the skies - the A380! (I did warn you I was sad!). We had done online check in so proceeded straight to the bag drop desk. There was noone else about and we walked straight up and our bags disappeared in no time! We proceeded to security and again there were no queues at all and we got straight through! As is usual now you are guided out through the duty free lounge - no stopping for us breakfast was calling!! Now we are from 'up north' and like to have a nice cooked breakfast before a flight, usually from a self service restaurant where you choose what you want. We found before at Gatwick that it appears down south they don't do self service restaurants! I don't like the idea of having to order food and wait for it in an airport, what if there is a delay to the food and your flight is called!? We did see signs saying there was a 15minute promise in place that restaurants had to sign up for to rent the space in the airport so you know you shouldn't be waiting long, however for a full breakfast you were talking about £9 and it was the full works, my husband is a fussy eater and only wants certain parts of the breakfast so we decided against a restaurant and went to a bagel stand instead - we were getting in the mood for New York! We ate our breakfast and then had a wander round the shops and departure lounge - all the usual airport ones, boots, whsmiths, Dixons, hmv etc as well as a champagne, cavier and seaford bar/restaurant? And a burberry and Harrods! Okay, whatever floats your boat! We stocked up on flight essentials, magazine, bottle of drink, crisps etc! Now the hunt for the A380 began! We wandered down one pier and saw a few jumbos but no A380! We walked down the second pier and was stopped by a security guard - I think technically you're only meant to go to the gate when you're called!!. So, me being the idiot that I am in the current heightened security climate, when asked by the security guard 'Where are you flying to?' Said 'Oh nowehere!' I then corrected myself and said, well New York later but erm...well...actually...! I was honest, I said I was sad and was looking for an A380! To my surprise he actually said ah you want to be on Piers 1-5, just go back down there and go to your right, you should see a couple down there! :-) Phew! So we trekked back down and went to the right and at the end of the walkway, there they were! 2 shiny A380's! A beast of plane! One day I hope to fly on one of those!!! :-) Back in the main airport lounge it appeared that the flight information screens weren't working, this was causing a bit of chaos with people wandering what gate to go to! It results in some airport staff stood in the middle with a white board and pen! Oh for technology!! They were also announcing flights over the tannoy system (Which they don't seem to do in airports anymore) and with an hour and a half to go before our flight was due to depart we were called to the gate! I was expecting longer at the gate as we were flying to the US but wasn't expecting that long before, I'm not sure if this was partly due to the flight information screens being down so they made sure people were given plenty of notice or whether it was because of the extra security checks. We arrived at the gate and realised it was an enclosed area with seats, not in the open corridor, therefore we made sure we visited the toilets before we went into the date - this was a good idea as there are no toilets once into the holding area. Our passports were checked and then we went on to the second security screening, this was more thorough than the original one! Belts and shoes had to be taken off and everyone was frisked. All bags had to be opened and were searched, this included taking cameras, ipods, laptops etc all out of cases. We then waited about 15mins before boarding started and we got on our plane and jetted off to New York.! Overall T3 at LHR was a fairly standard experience for us, albeit 'a bit posher' than airports up north! No self service restaurant for a good fry up but you can get champagne seafood and cavier - I don't get it! There were also posher shops but at least they had the normal ones too. I felt that they handles the failure of the information screens quite well and although we did see one person miss their flight I don't think this was a lot to do with the screens being down. There were doing a lot more calls over the tannoy and staff (along with white board!) were a lot more visible to help passengers. A fairly standard terminal with some upmarket features that personally I don't' think are necessary but some people obviously think they are! I did like the fact I could actually see some planes unlike Birmingham airport that has an enclosed departure lounge! A fairly good experience, just add a self service restaurant!!!
Living in Sheffield our train station is served by East Midlands trains for going down to London. We usually make this trip 2 or 3 times a year, usually for football but recently we travelled to Heathrow and took the train and I went on a day trip to see a show. The reason I've stated my reasons for going is because you definitely experience a different experience on a train depending on when you go!! Experience: Last year I think all my trips were for football and although personally me and my husband are not your hooligan type travelling on a train, we know what can occur and if it does I feel really sorry for your ordinary people on the train!! 9 times out of 10 if you travel on a train when there is football on (most Saturdays!) you will not even notice it, and most people travelling are courteous and aware of people around them. You do get the odd few that can spoil it for others - the big groups that think it's clever to get other people involved in their 'games' and this can make people feel uncomfortable (it does me and I'm normally going to the same place as they are!). You can always move to another carriage and if they get too rowdy you can always speak to the guard. I've never seen any major trouble on a train and you generally find that there are more police around the stations and sometimes on the trains so you still feel perfectly safe. They do seem to have it pretty sorted for coping with groups. So that's good! The two trips this year have been on weekdays, one was a day trip and one was travelling down on a Friday night and back on a Thursday lunchtime. Both of these, although busy were reasonably quiet. One thing that does annoy me on a train is the lack of luggage space. Every single train I have been on the luggage racks are always overflowing and spill over into the aisles and people end up squashing cases in other areas of the carriage. Just a couple more luggage racks and the problem would be rectified! Prices: The pricing structure for trains have supposedly been simplified over the last year - I don't really agree! I don't think I've ever paid the same price for a train fare ever! Advance fares are supposedly available 3 months before but realistically it can be anywhere from 2 to 3 months and it is really luck whether you are checking when they are released! If you get a cheap advance fare I think the train is a good value for money mode of transport. For my day trip to London I paid £10 return - this is the cheapest I have ever got it! For our trip to Heathrow we paid £34 return each. The most we have paid was when we booked tickets about 3 years ago a week before travelling and it cost us £108 return for 2 people....I dread tot hink whatt he fare would be a week before now! Buffet: We very rarely get food or drinks from the buffet car and instead choose to take something on the train with us. The odd time we have got something it has been reasonably quality but extremely expensive! Trains: Our route has recently received quite a few new trains and I have to say this has greatly improved the comfort onboard the trains. The old style trains were getting quite grubby and rickety. The new trains are kept quite clean - considering the amount they are used! Even in standard class you now have access to a plug which can be handy for people with laptops/charging up phones etc. First class: We have only travelled first class once on East midlands trains. This was because it was actually the same price as travelling standard class and to be honest I really didn't see much difference. Slightly bigger seats and the general atmosphere better and quieter. However we travelled in an evening and were never offered any food or drink for free, I had been told you could get tea, coffee, biscuits etc but this was never offered. I'm not sure if we could have got it from the buffet car but it definitely wasn't advertised. So, I don't think I would pay a lot extra to go first class - if I knew the train was going to be really busy, I may pay a bit extra for a bit more comfort but it wouldn't be a lot! Overall: Unless I travel to Doncaster, East Midlands trains is really my only option for travelling to London, I wouldn't say there is anything special about them but there isn't anything bad either! As a train company they serve our line pretty well, with 2 trains an hour to London and if you book in advance the prices aren't too bad!
I have recently had the pleasure of flying to New York and back with Virgin Atlantic and must say I have been really pleased. I have read on many different sides about Virgin going downhill and their planes becoming scruffy, service lacking etc etc, however I can't say I experienced any of this. We booked this flight fairly close to departure for us (we booked end of December for 6th March) we were looking at hotel and flight packages and therefore didn't specifically look at Virgin, we were looking at all airlines that flew direct. Initially the cheapest that came up was BA - we avoided this like the plague due to the threat of strike action from them. Also coming up was Delta and American Airlines, we would have been quite happy to fly with either of these, however around 28th December Virgin Atlantic announced a flight sale - New York return from £299 - so we looked at flight and hotel packages again and Virgin were now the cheapest - Excellent! We flew with them to Barbados for our honeymoon last year and were more than happy with the flight and service and signed up for the frequent flyer card - it doesn't cost anything and if you get enough points you can pay for flights/upgrades etc with the points. I wouldn't have gone with Virgin purely for this as we don't have enough money to take the flights needed to build up enough points - an example would be an upgrade from economy to premium economy one way to New York is currently 20000 miles - we now have about 8000 miles having been to Barbados and New York and back - if you don't use your membership in 3 years though you lose all your miles so you do have to be making a long haul trip with Virgin every couple of years really to keep it going and build it up. I do see Virgin as the best transatlantic carrier at the minute, I still think it has a bit of a status symbol about it even with some of the poor reviews around. I generally don't have really high expectations and only travel economy - if I'd have paid the money for premium economy (approx £300 extra each way) or Upper Class (£1300+ extra each way)I would definitely expect more! Why do normal people pay so much more?! It's still the same plane! I'd rather have another holiday!! With Virgin Atlantic you can log onto their website and pre select your seats - this is not guaranteed due to operational reasons and can change at the last minute - we have always got the seats we picked though. You can also use this facility to complete Advance Passenger Information (API) now needed for nearly all flights (especially USA), you can also select any special meals required by your party. It also has information regarding your baggage allowance and check in procedures. It is also on this page where you can check in online and print your boarding passes. I'm not sure how much time this saves but you are more likely to get the seats you have picked checking in online and they do release more seats at this stage so if you're not happy there is seat plan for the plane and you can change your seats. Going we checked in online no problem, however coming back having found an internet café it just kept saying there was an error. We just checked in at the airport the old fashioned way and it was no problem. Luggage: Virgin has recently reduced luggage allowance to just one piece at 23kg for economy customers, this used to be 2 pieces. If you require an extra piece you can pre-book it for an extra £30. I think that this is fairly reasonable, it is quite unlikely that most people will need more than one bag in the hold so can see why they have done this. And £30 for an extra bag is not bad at all considering the overweight luggage charges!! The flight: We were called to the gate about an hour and a half before the flight was due to depart because we were flying to the USA. We had to have a second security check and bag search, we all then sat in the gate area and waited to board, boarding began about an hour before we were due to depart - something to bear in mind if you are used to getting to the airport only a couple of hours before your flight - you may now need a bit longer! As is usual they boarded Upper class, premium economy and Virgin Gold card holders first, then they start with the back of the economy section and work their way forward. They let you use your phone until the cabin crew tell you to turn it off, I think this is cos they like to get you on board early so they can try and push back a bit early if a slot becomes available. We were on a morning flight out and received a breakfast wrap about an hour into the flight and then later on received a full meal, you had the choice of either chicken in a mushroom sauce or beef stew for the main meal and it came with a small pasta salad for a starter, a lovely GU chocolate pudding and the customary bread roll and butter. For plane food it was perfectly acceptable and was warm and tasty. The drinks service on the flight was frequent and everything is free, including alcohol. Early on in the flight they brought round juices and tea and coffee and later brought a full drinks service. However, should you want anything else you only have to ask,. There are also water fountains where you can help yourself to water. Coming back we were on a night flight and were served a meal more or less as soon as the seat belt sign was switched off, this was really good as it meant we could try and get some sleep, the option was roast chicken or cottage pie, with the same accompaniments, but a lovely chocolate brownie for pudding this time! Just before we landed continental breakfast was brought round. We were given the choice of a strawberry cereal bar or a blueberry muffin, I mush preferred the outgoing breakfast option and also the option on my previous flight which was a ham and egg, or cheese and egg roll! The staff were all courteous and friendly and nothing seemed too much trouble. I have no complaint at the on board service. Entertainment: Different Virgin aircraft are fitted with different types of entertainment, I think they are VPort, Odyssey and something else - basically if you are on aircraft out of Heathrow you will get the best entertainment, which includes on demand entertainment where you can pause and choose exactly what you want, you have numerous games, music, tv and movies to choose from, also an interactive iMap so you can see where you are. We have been lucky and on both flights (even when we flew from Gatwick our plane was switched to a Heathrow plane) we have had the on demand entertainment. Most of the Gatwick and Manchester planes (our next flight - I'll maybe end up actually reading the newspaper or book I've taken on the plane rather than playing with the on demand entertainment all the flight!) have one of the other 2 loop systems where you have a choice of channels but there is no option to pause, start when you want etc, also I've read that one of the systems does not have interactive games, I have never experienced either of these planes and think it is something Virgin are considering upgrading in the future. I think on demand entertainment is the way forward on planes, it gives you so much more freedom! I've also read the planes with the older entertainment systems are also older looking and slightly tatty inside, again I have no experience of this so can only comment on the planes I have been on and I certainly have had no problem with the aircraft I have used. So overall, I am generally easily pleased! I've never had any problem with the service offered by Virgin and find the whole process fairly smooth. They would always be my first choice on a route that they fly, however this would be price dependant - if I could fly the same route for a lot less I would (avoiding BA!). At this rate they may even become the national airline in the future! Virgin Atlantic all the way for me!! :-)
We had our main holidays booked for the year and wanted somewhere to go for a short weekend break in the winter. The only requirement was cheap and from a local airport! I searched various places and Krakow came out on top! We had been to Prague the previous year and really enjoyed the different architecture associated with eastern Europe, we felt we had been somewhere different than where we had been before. We researched things to do in Krakow and decided that it was easily do-able in a 3 night trip and we could take in a visit to Auschwitz and maybe the salt mines whilst we were there. So we went ahead and booked it! 3 nights flying from East Midlands airport with Ryanair (see separate review), staying in a 3 star hotel (Hotel Matejko - see separate review) , a night in a Travelodge before hand (see separate review) and car parking worked out at less than £250 for the 2 of us! That certainly ticked the cheap requirement!! We did our research and were prepared for the extreme cold (we travelled at the end of jan/beginning of feb) - thermal underwear and layers a definite must! Whilst we were there it was about -8 to-10, but the week before it had been about -20. Don't under-estimate how cold this will feel! A hat is a definite must, there is a biting chill in the air and it can give you a headache! We arrived mid afternoon on a Saturday and took the train to the city - this was easy - just a 5min walk or a 2min bus ride from the airport and it takes you into the city centre, it cost 8PLN each and took about 15mins. We checked in and freshened up and went for a walk round the old town. We walked passed the Barbican and through the Florian gate - both excellent examples of the towns historic past and here some ofthe old city walls aer still standing. We walked round the main square and to the University and had a wander down some of the narrow side streets looking in lots of little quaint shops. We were surprised at just how much of the old town area we covered in a short space of time That evening we went to Sioux restaurant on the main square and had a lovely meal, we had been up early and returned to the hotel. Our second day (sun) we spent in Auschwitz (see review). A very thought provoking place and only about an hour and half from Auschwitz on a public bus. We returned to Krakow about 5pm and again had a little wander (our hotel was only 2mins from the old town). We went to Roosters for tea and returned to the hotel to plan the next day! On Monday we walked up to Wawal Cathedral and castle and had a look round, we decided not to pay to go in and continued walking until we found the famous Krakow dragon! He breathes fire every 10 mins! The river was partly frozen over and this was a fantastic sight to see, just a small channel in the middle remained flowing! We then walked on to the Jewish District, I had read about a busy market square with stalls....however this was all closed! No stalls in sight! Booooo! We continued wandering round (we like wandering round new places! Very rarely do we go in many places unless we have a real interest!) and saw some lovely architecture. Now..I had planned this walk to last all day - It was now dinner time! Okay so it wasn't as far as I thought! We decided to visit the Krakow aquarium as we were both quite cold and thought it would be nice to be inside for a while! The aquarium is also a reptile house and although on the small side was really quiet - we nearly had it to ourselves! It was a nice way to spend 45mins-1 hour and got us warmed up again! Now we were a bit stuck what to do, we had seen the salt mines advertised and contemplated this but as my husband has a sever dislike to any cave like attraction we decided against it, I also read it was 2 and a half hours for a guided tour - I thought there's only so much salt you can look at - if we'd have been able to walk through at our own pace we'd have gone. So we had some lunch and decided that we would return our big coats to the hotel and run across to the shopping centre (50yards form the hotel) and have a good look round (we had tried previously but carrying coats isn't ideal!). The shopping centre was fab - why can't we have C&A back in the UK?! We had a rest and had an Italian ice cream for 50p each! It was gorgeous! Every flavour you could think of and a sugar cone for 50p!! The final day we had a quick walk back into the main square before checking out of the room and returning to the airport. Overall, we enjoyed our short trip to Krakow. Without Auschwitz I think we would have been bored for 3 days. We are not really interested in visiting museums and found that we walked round the 2 main tourist districts fairly quickly. We chose Krakow as we had really enjoyed Prague the year before. Krakow is definitely cheaper than Prague (although we didn't find Prague expensive) but we did find that there wasn't as much to do. I think a 2night break with good flight times would have been sufficient. If you are into Jewish history and visiting museums you could probably spend a while there, if we'd have realised how quick we'd walk round the town we'd have gone on a trip to Zakopane (the polish winter capital). I don't want to put people off Krakow cos we did really enjoy it and the prices of food and drink are fab! I think we maybe went too soon after visiting Prague and we found ourselves comparing it - wrong thing to do I know! If you have a couple of days spare, hop over and see for yourself, it's a lovely city with lovely architecture and definitely a place we're pleased we've visited.
On our recent visit to Krakow we decided to visit Auschwitz,you can't really call it an attraction but it is somewhere we were interested in visiting, we had no direct connection with Auschwitz and I haven't studied history since I was 13 but it is somewhere you read so much about and see on films that I felt I wanted to go and see for myself. Firstly, I have found this review quite difficult to write as it is a very difficult place to review, I hope I have come across respectfully about Auschwitz and people who read it understand that I do not see it as a tourist attraction as such, more somewhere that is an informative and must visit place to understand the awful things that happened there during the war. We caught a public bus from Krakow bus station, it worked out about £10 return for 2 people which was excellent value for money. I was a little wary that I wouldn't be able to find the right bus but the board a the bus station is fairly self explanatory. You just need to look for Oswiecim, this is the name of the town - you won't see Auschwitz on the boards! The journey took about an hour and a half and dropped us off outside the gates. There were some local people on the bus but it was mostly tourists doing the same journey as us. Once at Auschwitz you have the option of going on a guided tour which was 33Zlotys or buying a self guided tour book for 4Zlotys. We decided to do the tour ourselves, I had read about the guided tours being herded round and some of the large groups, we felt we would get more out of it going round ourselves and the book was the equivalent of about 80p! We were pleased we chose this option as the information and the map in the booklet are really useful and tie in with the boards around the sit and give you all the information you need. Some of the groups going round were quite large and couldn't even fit in the room the guide was talking about! We felt we were able to go at our own pace and don't feel we missed out by not going with a guide. The main Auschwitz site mostly remains in tact and you go into many of the buildings to see exhibits of how people used to live, and what they went through. There are suitcases, glasses, dolls etc that had been taken from people when they arrived, There is also a gas chamber that you can go in, to be honest if you weren't told it was a gas chamber you probably wouldn't realise as it is now quite derelict inside, but with the help of the guidebook to begin to realise just what these people went through. Some of these exhibits can be quite harrowing, I can imagine also very upsetting if you had relatives that were there. Like I said before I had no direct connection with Auschwitz and although I found it very sombre and certainly thought provoking I didn't find it particularly upset me, I think it depends what sort of person you are. I think how they have preserved Auschwitz is really good, they have not turned it into a 'tourist attraction' as such by having gift shops etc. There are a couple of book shops and a snack bar/café - they do have to cater for the amount of people that are there! It has been preserved as a memorial and as an informative site, it has been done very respectfully and more or less everyone walking round did so with respect. Despite the amount of people walking round it was silent which added to the atmosphere (if that's the right word!). You can take photos but not inside any of the buildings, we took a few just to show people what it was like, not your usual smiling happy holiday snaps - that wouldn't be right. We did take photos in front of the famous gate/sign but did it with respect. We did see some school/college groups going round taking big group pictures in front of the gas chambers - I think this is a bit close to the line. I don't think it was the sort of place for group holiday snaps! They do say that it is not suitable for children under 14 and I can see why. Even though young children wouldn't understand what they were seeing I don't' think it is right for children to be there as there could be relatives of people who were there, and children running around bored or playing up because they don't understand wouldn't be respectful, there is absolutely nothing for children there and I see no reason why you would want to take a child. Following our visit to Auschwitz we took the free bus to Birkenau - once an hour in the winter. It is only about 5mins away and is definitely worth the trip. This site is huge! You have to see it to believe it, a lot of the buildings were destroyed but a few remain as well as the chimneys from the buildings. The guide book can also be used for a tour round here. This was the main death camp and you just can't imagine what went on. The main focal point is the train tracks down the middle where people arrived with the promise of a better life, the towers for the guards are still there and you just can't imagine what they went through. We were at Auschwitz for about 2 and a half hours walking round, and at Birkenau for just over an hour - we could have spent longer in Birkenau but had to get back for the bus. We didn't think we would be there that long but it is not a place that can be rushed and there is so much to take in. Overall, I would definitely recommend a visit to Auschwitz and am pleased that they keep it open. I think it is somewhere that people need to know about and the way it has been done is very informative yet respectful. I would definitely recommend taking the bus yourself rather than a trip form Krakow, you can then go round at your own pace and it is a lot cheaper!
Whilst searching for places to eat in Krakow I discovered Roosters which is basically the same as hooters. It is an American diner type place with pretty girls dressed in hot pants and tank tops. Once my husband found this out he decided that it was on the list of must eat places in Krakow!! On our second night in Krakow we decided to try it, it was set out quite nicely inside although was one big room rather than smaller reas, it had a high ceiling so even though it wasn't too busy the noise did carry. We found the service to be quite cold, we did expect this in Poland but after the helpful service in the restaurant the night before was quite surprised. Also the advertised 'pretty' ladies were actually not that pretty! They weren't ugly but weren't what we expected, and also had zip up tops on covering their tank tops - isn't that the trade mark!? It did take a while to order our food and we did have to call a waitress over. We ordered a burger and chips and chicken and chips and it didn't take too long to come. The food was actually really nice and the chicken came with a nice side salad. There was all sorts on the menu, usual fair for these type of restaurants with burgers, steaks, chicken etc with a few polish type dishes thrown in. The meal was cheap and overall including drinks was less than £20 and it was a lovely meal. This restaurant also doesn't have a separate non smoking area which was disappointed as the restaurant the night before did have which we much prefer, we were mostly luck as no-one round us was smoking while we ate our meals, as we were finishing our drinks the table next to us did start smoking and it was off-putting - I know this is different cultures, it would just have been nice to have a non smoking area. Overall we (well mostly my husband) were just a little disappointed by the cold service and the waitresses working there. It certainly wasn't the same standard as hooters, however for the price we can't complain too much and the food was lovely which is the main thing with a restaurant!
On our recent trip to Krakow we were looking for a hotel that was relatively close to the main tourist area of the town (old town) and also near to the bus/train station as we would be arriving and leaving by train (easy connection to the airport) and also planning a trip to Auschwitz by bus. We don't like spending a fortune on a hotel and don't particularly want luxury but we do want a good, clean modern hotel and usually look for around a 3 star. Looking for hotels in a city you don't know is usually like looking for a needle in a haystack! So many to choose from in varying locations all stating they are in the 'centre' of the town! I decided to go on expedia and searched for our dates, then ordered it by price, lowest first - I discounted 1 star and hostels and then plotted some on google maps with prices - this narrowed the choice down to about 4 or 5, so I read reviews and look at pictures travellers had took and went for Hotel Matejko! Location: For us the location of the hotel was perfect, about 100 yards from Galeria Krakowska shopping centre - you can get to the train/bus station through here. It is on a corner on Matejki Square opposite a church. From the hotels entrance you can see the Barbican and are a 5 minute walk from the Florian Gate entrance to the Old Town, it is about a 10minute walk to the main old town square. There is also a bus stop straight outside the hotel which takes you to the salt mines (we didn't do this trip but regularly saw a bus there). If you wanted to take organised trips there is also a shop a couple of doors down from the hotel. Room: We were given a room on the third floor and the back of the hotel, therefore we didn't have a view - this didn't bother us as the only time we were in the hotel was when it was dark! Our room was also a disabled room and therefore was quite big! We did see in some other rooms and they looked a reasonable size for standard rooms. We had a double and a single bed in the room - we booked a double room so this was a bonus and meant we had somewhere to put things! The room was clean and prefect for what we wanted. The bathroom was really big - again probably because it was a disabled room - the only downside tot his was that the shower had a folding chair in it which took up a bit of room and the shower head was set lower! As we are short though this didn't prove much of a problem and it was outweighed by the extra room we got! The room itself did not have a safe but you could leave your items at reception and they kept them in a safe - there was no problems with this at all. Breakfast Our rate included breakfast which is always a bonus! The breakfast here was plentiful - lots of bread, cheeses, ham, tomatoes, olives, spreads, jams, yoghurts, cereals, scrambled eggs, frankfurter sausages etc, fruit juices, coffee, tea etc! It was all fresh and replenished frequently and was definitely a good start to the day! Price: We paid £131 for a double room for 2 people for 3 nights including breakfast! This wasn't the cheapest hotel that came up in my search and it certainly wasn't the dearest. The location for us was perfect and was the main reason for choosing this hotel, however we think it's a little gem! Everyone was friendly, maid service every day, good breakfast all for £131 for two! You'd pay that for a night in a 3 star hotel in London! Overall, if I were to go to Krakow again I wouldn't look anywhere else, ideal location, price and comfort, perfect for a stay in this lovely city.
Whenever we go on holiday we rarely eat local products and dishes, I usually search the internet for American diner type places as my husband is a really fussy eater and only likes plain food! Burgers, chicken etc! On our recent trip to Krakow I discovered Sioux: http://www.sioux.krakow.pl/index_eng.php. The website didn't have a menu in English but it did show pictures of what appeared to be 'normal' food! It was also located in the main square. There were a couple of other restaurants I found - one appeared to be a polish Nando's - Yummies and another that was a Polish version of Hooters - Roosters (Review to follow)! We went for a walk on our first day and whilst walking passed Sioux had a look at the menu. I have read many stories of not eating in the main squares of foreign cities as you pay a premium, well if you did here the places on the side streets must have nearly been free!! We like the look of the place and decided to go back later. On walking in the theming of the restaurant is excellent, it is set out like a wild west ranch with lots of nooks and crannies, we were asked if we wanted smoking or non smoking - something which we didn't think we'd get the choice of in Poland! We selected non smoking as neither of us are smokers and were directed to a small area upstairs. This area was considerably smaller than the smoking area but we found it quite nice. There was a large screen tv which was showing live football (no sound) which my husband appreciated - he's mad on any football! We ordered our drinks and food and just sat back and relaxed, we did order garlic bread for a starter but this didn't materialise, I think this was probably due to a misunderstanding with the language - everyone spoke really good English and in general we didn't find it a problem, however my husband as I said is a fussy eater and I think I confused the guy trying to explain that we wanted his meal plain, just a burger and chips nothing else in it or on it!! The menu was typical of any American type restaurant with burgers, chicken, steaks etc with a few polish type meals thrown in, I would say that there really was something for everyone's taste! Our meals came - Burger and chips - exactly as ordered and grilled chicken, chips and salad for me - they were both fairly large portions and were really scrummy! The salad I got with my chicken was different and really nice - it was like coleslaw without the mayo in it, and then there was beetroot without the vinegar and some cabbage type things, all shredded, it was really nice and complimented the chicken and chips perfectly! We really enjoyed our meal and so ordered some more drinks and had a look at the dessert menu, I opted for a warm cheesecake served with warm raspberries - bearing in mind it was -8 outside the 'warm' was quite significant in my choice of desserts! When it came it was a large portion and gorgeous! Now the best bit - the price! We had 3 pints or beer (polish beer - Twicye I think it was!), 2 cokes, burger and chips, chicken and chips, 1 dessert and the bill was the equivalent of about £20! Bargain! If you are ever in Krakow I would definitely recommend a trip here, it isn't a traditional polish restaurant but it doesn't pretend to be so don't go here expecting an authentic experience! We tried another restaurant the next night but on our last night returned to Sioux, it was such a lovely restaurant with a nice atmosphere and we even got our garlic bread the second time! :-)
Meadowhall is a large shopping centre located on the site of former steelworks in Sheffield. I live about 8miles away and therefore go there quite a lot! (Much to my husband's disgust!!) It is easily accessible from the M1 motorway (junction 34) and has lots of free parking, including many overflow car parks for busy times - although these are often quite a walk from the centre (generally only used in the run up to Christmas). It also has its own transport interchange where you will find local and national bus stops (Megabus and National Express stop here), a train station and a tram terminus which can take you into Sheffield city centre in about 15minutes. Generally people from Sheffield either love or hate meadowhall - known locally as Meadowhell! I'm one of the ones that loves it but only if you go at the right time, being so close means I can pick and choose when I go which is definitely a major advantage for a large shopping centre like Meadowhall! Opening Times: Throughout the year, the centre is open from 10am until 9pm on weekdays, 9am until 7pm on a Saturday and 11am-5pm on a Sunday - there are a few exceptions to this when stores have special events. In the run up to Xmas the centre is open until 10pm on a weekday which is brilliant! Best time to go: Always avoid a Saturday unless you plan on getting there for 9am and leaving about 11am! Even in the middle of the year Meadowhall can be unbearably busy on a Saturday afternoon and you may find yourself waiting around for a parking place. During the week generally Mondays are the quietest and then it gets gradually busier towards Friday. It will get busier around tea time when people finish work and people who have gone for the day haven't left. If I'm going for the day it's normally on a Friday and I don't really have any problems. The quietest time to go is in an evening, normally the last couple of hours - between 7pm and 9pm, by 8.30 you practically have some of the shops to yourself! My all time favourite time to go has to be in an evening the first week that they start opening late in the run up to xmas - this is normally the end of October/beginning of November just after they have switched on the xmas lights. The shops are open until 10pm and you really do have the malls to yourself in that last hour! Other than evenings it is probably best avoiding meadowhall for the last few weeks before Xmas - it can be an absolute nightmare! (Unless you like queueing to get in, queueing to park, queuing to try on, queuing to pay, peple walking into you, queuing for food and then queuing to get out!) Shops: There is a huge variety of shops in Meadowhall. M&S, Debenhams, Next and House of Frazer all have big stores, With Topshop, Primark, H&M New Look all occupying large areas of the Malls. You have got lots of sports shops, Jewellery stores, designer stores and shoe shops. There is a small area called The Lanes which has several small market style stalls selling all sorts of things - there is a tool shed, a bag store, a croc shop and many more. I find Meadowhall has a good mix of stores that will generally suit everyone's style and budget. The Oasis: The Oasis Food Court has an upper and lower level, the lower level has a large seating area with mostly fast food restaurants - McDonalds, KFC, Pizza Hut, a Chinese place, Indian, Jacket potato, fish and chip, a sandwich stall etc. On this level there is also a Nando's and La Tasca Restaurants. The upper level was extended a few years ago to incorporate another small seating area for busy periods which can be useful. There are also more restaurants on the upper level, Frankie and Bennys, Chilango, Coal Bar and Grill, Prezzo, Handmade Burger Co, Pizza Express and more. Along with these is a VUE cinema, so you really can make a day out! Overall: I love Meadowhall and it is nearly always my first choice for somewhere to shop, however the reason I enjoy it is because of the time I choose to go, If you only ever experience Meadowhall on a Saturday or at Xmas I can see why it can be called Meadowhell!!
We had an early morning flight from East Midlands airport and despite only living about 45 minutes away we always like to stop near the airport the night before as it means it's much less hassle on the morning and there are no worries about getting stuck in traffic. I have to say I booked this on a bit of a spur of the moment straight after I booked the flights as it was only £19 for a room so grabbed the deal. I then read some reviews on another review site and began to get a little worried. I have stayed in many Travelodge's before and have only had one bad experience (in London). As a general rule all Travelodge rooms are the same, if you stop in a newer one they are definitely nicer with more modern features but overall they are very similar. Now I really needn't have worried...I can see where some of the complaints have come from - this hotel as well as being near East Midlands airport is very close to Donnington Park and when there is an event on becomes full very quickly as it is the cheapest option in the area (apart from camping!). Like any hotel I can imagine on these weekends it will get very busy and noisy. When we stayed it was reasonably quiet and I would say empty and therefore we didn't have too much of a problem - however the floor boards were very very creaky! I'm please we were getting up early as the people in the room above us were up early too! Our floor was just as bad so I don't know if it is a common theme!! You can hear people in the corridor and doors banging so I can see this being a problem on busy weekends. Everyone knows a Travelodge is basic, so it really annoys me when people moan when you don't get the little luxuries of other hotels! It clearly states you don't get them!! If there is anything you want it is usually available at the reception. The rooms were clean and tidy, nothing to complain about. The shower was really powerful and soap provided. I don't really need anymore than this for a hotel before a flight - I don't look for luxury I look for ease and convenience. The location of this Travelodge is at a service area and the entrance is inside the main service area which has the usual shops, cafes, games areas etc. The service area is like a massive atrium and the Travelodge rooms are at either side of this, half the rooms overlook the service area (no natural light) and half overlook the surrounding area - the motorway/car park or petrol station. The website does warn people that not all rooms have natural light, so if this is a problem for you avoid this hotel. We were lucky and got an outside facing room the opposite side to the motorway, therefore I can't comment on whether the other side suffers from motorway noise. Your car can be parked in the service area free of charge - just make sure you give your reg number to reception when you arrive to avoid the fine for staying more than 2 hours! Overall, this hotel was clean and served it's purpose, it's nothing fancy but was fine for what we wanted. I would probably avoid it on race weekends and wouldn't recommend it for a romantic weekend away, but for a cheap stopover en-route along the M1 or before flying out of EMA it's ideal - especially at £19!